We may choose to look the other way, but its impact is impossible to ignore. We may feign “life as usual,” knowing it is not. There is no escaping the truth of it……we are not dealing with a fictional, drama-induced menace. This is the real thing, standing on our doorstep, threatening to enter our personal universe.
Still, we are called to carry on…….to realize that in spite of the darkening clouds you and I are probably among the most fortunate. Right? Odds are you are sitting in your apartment or home, because you are not allowed to leave. You are there in front of your computer or on the couch with your smart phone, warm, comfortable, and well fed. That describes our circumstances at this moment.
Yet each of us, no matter where we are, is a citizen of this unfamiliar and disorienting world. To be sure I grumble about the new reality, with its confining, enforced isolation. “Social distancing” can be an unnatural pain in the butt. And it’s not just about us grown ups. I know school teachers who are worried about the impact, academically, socially, and physically, of school closures on their home-bound students. Even our family gatherings have been reduced to phone calls, emails, and Zoom sessions.
As I have noted before, television without live sports……watching the Oregon schools take part in March Madness or following my beloved Tottenham Hotspurs ……..has led to unsettling withdrawal symptoms. If crime dramas or reruns of every sort are not your favored TV viewing whatever is left is pretty depressing. And following the stock market during the day gives me a serious headache.
Yet the reasons for all that disruption are too real to wish away. The number of virus cases is soaring. Worst of all, without adequate testing we don’t know what we don’t know. We do know that our health-care system and health-care workers are being swamped, while our slow-to-respond administration seems to care most about a stock-market revival at any cost.
All around us people have lost jobs, businesses are closing, and paychecks are vanishing. The pain is real and spreading. What could have prepared us for supermarket shelves stripped bare, while the walls of our own homes close in a little more each day?
Meanwhile, the politicians carry on, debating how to spend money they are creating out of thin air…..Trillions, with a ’T’ ……..soothing their unsettled constituents, while ensuring their own share of the ever-expanding fiscal pie.
As so often happens, powerless hourly worker are once again pawns in an ugly game of power politics. How will they carry on? At the same time overstressed corporate CEO’s are living with their own sort of fear …….wondering how they can protect their company’s future and their own privileged place on the pedestal.
We are watching our once-friendly world unravel in ways we could have never imagined, Our government, once the epitome of financial strength in a shaky world, seems to have thrown off all sense of fiscal restraint.
And all the while a multitude of small-business owners, with little or no power to withstand the viral tsunami, are watching their life’s work, their personal version of the American dream, slipping away. On a very personal level I have been there in those dire times. I can remember the sense of helplessness I felt as my economic universe threatened to spin out of control.
And yet, in many important ways we, the great majority of those living out this potentially lethal nightmare, are among the lucky ones. You see, for years my own home town has wrestled with an ongoing and very “unAmerican dream” reality…….one that now threatens to overwhelm us.
Downtown businesses are dealing with a literal invasion of homeless people.......an ill-defined blend of out-of-work, addicts, and mentally challenged. Dozens, even hundreds, of our no-longer unseen neighbors have come out into the light of day, squatting in front of stores, in the shelter of overhead awnings, in what have become semi-permanent encampments.
For a very long time those homeless folks, our neighbors, have struggled to carry on. In the best of times their life is hard and their health options limited. Today’s coronavirus world…..with its lay-offs, store closures, stay-a-home orders, and social distancing…….leaves them with even fewer options.
In the midst of unprecedented upheaval I am here to remind us of the ones we tend to forget even in the good times. How many of those homeless ones will be helped by “checks for everyone”? Will they be receiving that $1,200 windfall? Have you seen even a hint of governmental compassion, the kind that seems to be in vogue at the moment, for those unfortunate ones?
Of course they deserve our prayers……but so much more. Sadly, in a world that can scarcely catch its breath, “much more” seems a long way off.
So then, how does this Hitchcockian drama end…….. for us so-called “lucky ones,” and our less fortunate neighbors? Is there a miracle answer waiting in the wings…….an effective treatment or the hoped-for vaccine? Or does this painful slogging from one “hot spot” to the next continue? Only time will tell.
In the meantime every one of us needs those continuing prayers.